Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

The Other Black History: The Maroons and Zumbi dos Palmares

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Informed and aware citizens, especially black ones, are not what the US empire wants or needs. So the history most of us are taught in school and the media amounts to a truncated stub of active disinformation, often with more gaps and distortions than truth. Even black Americans know little about the slave trade or slavery in the rest of the Americas.

The transAtlantic slave trade was conducted more than 300 years with wind-powered ships sailing between Europe, Africa and the Americas. The shortest hop along the prevailing winds from Angola and West Africa was to Brazil, and that's where almost half the millions of Africans who survived the Middle Passage are thought to have landed. Slavery in Brazil and the Caribbean wasn't like slavery in North America. Africans in North America were cruelly treated, but were so expensive to import that masters had to ensure they survived and reproduced in captivity. But in the Caribbean and Brazil slaves were so cheap and plentiful masters worked entire populations to death every few years and imported new ones.

North America also had free whites in the back country, along with a dense network of roads, and by the 19th century, railroads. The troops that put down John Brown's rebellion in the 1850s were dispatched by rail and received orders by telegraph. In Jamaica, St. Kitts, Cuba, SurinameGuadeloupeHaiti, Trinidad. Spanish Florida and the vast interior of Brazil there were few free whites, even fewer roads and never any railroads at all, and thus greater opportunities for Africans who managed to run away. Maroons, as the runaways were called often eluded capture long enough to establishfarms, villages and settlements. In Colombia, Spanish Florida, Brazil and elsewhere they made common cause with Native Americans. The most famous and long lived maroon settlement was the quilombo of Palmares in northeastern Brazil, which successfully repelled Dutch and Portuguese military expeditions for about a hundred years.

Eighty years along in 1678, the Portuguese governor offered to leave Palmares alone if they would relocate, and also apprehend and return future runaways, a deal often extended to troublesome maroon settlements. Some of the leaders of Palmares took the deal and those who followed them were soon re-enslaved. The faction that continued to resist was led by a young man named Zumbi.

Born free in Palmares in 1655, Zumbi was captured by the Portuguese at the age of 6. After learning Portuguese and Latin he escaped returning to Palmares at 15, and in a few years later was a respected warrior and leader. Zumbi led the fight against the Portuguese till 1693 when he was severely wounded, and survived another two years on the run until he was betrayed, captured and beheaded on November 20, 1695. His severed head was publicly displayed in Recife, to prove to slaves that he was mortal and really dead.

But the memories of Palmares and of Zumbi never died. They've been celebrated by Brazilians and Africans around the world ever since. November 20 is a now a national holiday in Brazil.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He lives and works in Marietta GA and can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)

Direct download: 20121121_bd_zumbi_dos_palmares.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:06am EDT

Cory Booker: The Second Coming of Obama

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

He is ideologically committed to the privatization of public education and to government that serves the rich.”

Now that Barack Obama is a lame duck who can’t run for the top office anymore, it’s as good a time as any to speculate on who will take his place as the Black politician that rich white folks feel they can truly trust. One name stands out: Cory Booker, the 43 year-old Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, whose rightwing background and connections are far deeper and more intensely ideological than Obama’s. Indeed, if there had been no Barack Obama, Cory Booker would have been Wall Street’s choice as the First Black President. “He’ll be our second,” said a New York hedge fund partner, quoted in a recent Bloomberg News article.

The Lords of Capital love “Cory,” and call him by his first name. That’s how he raised $7 million to win Newark’s City Hall for the second time, in 2010. He has since amassed more than $250 million from wealthy capitalists, including the founder of Facebook, mainly for the Newark public schools. They’re willing to pile all this cash on Booker’s plate because he is ideologically committed to the privatization of public education and to government that serves the rich.

Booker’s national career began in September of 2000, as the key speaker at a Manhattan Institute power luncheon, a launching platform for new stars on the Right. The rookie Newark city councilman had already been vetted by the far-right Bradley Foundation for his efforts on behalf of vouchers for private schools. Railing against wealth redistribution, Booker won the hearts of the rich reactionaries, who bankrolled his first run for mayor, in 2002. Booker lost, barely, but won with even more corporate support in 2006.

Mayor Booker was of great service to his corporate-minded soul mate in the White House, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s reelection campaign. But, one thing Cory Booker cannot abide is anyone bad-mouthing his rich people. So fiercely loyal is Booker to the rich, as individuals and as a class, he recoiled against the campaign's criticisms of Mitt Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital. “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” said Booker, on NBC’s Meet the Press. Of course he wouldn't – Booker’s entire career is a creation of private capital.

Booker won the hearts of the rich reactionaries.”

Booker may run against New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie in 2013. If so, it will be a contest among political friends. Booker appeared with Christie and Louisiana Republican governor Bobby Jindal earlier this year at a “summit” meeting for supporters of school privatization.

We had Cory Booker’s number when he first ran for mayor in 2002, his pockets crammed with cash. Back then, we wrotethat Booker’s “impressive education served only to teach him the quickest route to the houses of the wealthy. The Young Frankenstein is now plugged in to power, lacking only the national profile that Newark's City Hall would provide.”

Ten years later, Booker has both the national profile and access to hundreds of millions of Wall Street dollars. And he fully intends to become Obama the Second. You can’t say he hasn’t earned it. By the age of 30, Cory Booker had put together a rich white ruling class fan club of his own. This guy is a world class opportunist, and a rightwing ideologue, too: just the kind of Black man that Wall Street loves and needs.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Direct download: 20121121_gf_Booker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:33am EDT

Evacuate Guantanamo – It Belongs to Cuba

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old.”

As the world witnesses the latest chapter in Israel’s occupation and blockade of Palestinians, it is important to remember that the United States has also been engaged in many of the same violations of international law against one of its own neighbors – and for an even longer period of time. The U.S. embargo against Cuba is seven years older than the Israeli seizure of the West Bank and Gaza, in 1967, while Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old, predating Israel’s 1948 formation out of Palestinian land by nearly half a century.

Guantanamo Bay was seized by the United States during the Second Cuban War of Independence from Spain, which the Americans prefer to call the Spanish American War. The United States intervened in that war in 1898, with the purpose of making Cuba into a U.S. colony, as it did to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. In 1901, the United States Senate passed the Platt Amendment, which demanded that Cuba lease naval bases to Washington. Guantanamo was signed away in perpetuity under the point of a gun, although it is a principle of international law that treaties concluded under military occupation are not valid. After the Revolution, the Cuban constitution repudiated all agreements made “under conditions of inequality.” But the Americans remained. They turned one of Cuba’s most precious natural resources, Guantanamo Bay, into a curse on the lips of the world, as a prison camp for desperate Haitian refugees, and then as a nexus of American international criminality and torture.

Most Americans know Guantanamo’s recent, shameful notoriety, but few are aware that the U.S. presence there has always been a crime against the Cuban people – a crime that goes back more than twice as far as the 1960 embargo.

In Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors.”

But Cuba does not forget. When the United Nations voted 188 to 3, last week,to condemn the U.S. embargo, Cuba submitted to Washington a “draft agenda” aimed at normalizing relations. At the top of the list, of course, is “the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.” Also included among the “fundamental topics” for any “respectful dialogue” is “return of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base.” The Cubans insist on their removal from the U.S. list of “terrorism-sponsoring countries”; an end to U.S. immigration policies that single out Cuba; compensation for economic and human damages inflicted on Cuba by the United States; a halt to “radio and TV aggressions” against Cuba; and that the U.S. stop financing subversion inside Cuba.

The Cubans say release of the Cuban Five, imprisoned for infiltrating right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida, is “an essential element” of meaningful talks.

U.S. media pundits worry that Washington has lost its ability to act as a mediator in the Middle East, because it has for generations protected the expansionist, hyper-aggressive and thoroughly racist Israeli regime. And this is true. But in Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors, through centuries of gunboat diplomacy, invasions, the colonization of Puerto Rico and the near-colonization of Cuba. The occupation of Guantanamo Bay is part of that imperial legacy – a game in which Israel is a relative – although extremely dangerous – upstart. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted

Direct download: 20121121_gf_CubaUS.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:21am EDT